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Now Is Not the Time to Throw in the Towel on Credit Union Taxation Bucky Sebastian is the dean of the credit union CEO corps. He’s a veteran of the regulatory world, including serving as the NCUA’s general counsel and years of service as CEO of GTE FCU. It is appropriate to show some respect and deference to the man who played an early and key role in opening up the field of membership of credit unions. Nonetheless, credit unions shouldn’t let Bucky throw in the towel for us on taxation of corporate income and Community Reinvestment Act. We don’t need his complicated and ill-advised solution that is in search of a problem. Collectively, credit unions have weathered one of the worst financial crises in history because of our core principles that embrace member-ownership and our members’ best interests. His plan is unrealistic in that it assumes that we would set our own tax rate. (We’d agree to pay tax on net worth over 12% of assets.) I don’t believe that the Treasury, Congress, an administration looking for revenue or the IRS are going to let us set our own tax rate. Sebastian would also agree to CRA regulation of credit unions. This is unnecessary regulation that may actually interfere with credit unions’ ability to reach out to help our communities. Instead of offering more needed services, we’ll be spending our time trying to comply with what bureaucrats in Washington believe our communities need. We are the community, we’re in the community, and we know what is needed. Serving our communities, for example, extends beyond making home loans. Trading taxation and CRA for fully open fields of membership, unlimited member business lending and the ability to accept alternative forms of capital is a bad idea. As the credit union (formerly AT&T Family) at the heart of the U.S. Supreme Court case and the resolving legislation, we are sympathetic to the desire to provide more consumers with the choice of affordable financial services through a credit union relationship. The current state of membership growth relative to opportunity does not justify throwing in the towel. Similarly, the current 12.25% of assets limit on member business lending is likely to be lifted as we show that we are providing a valuable source of capital to small business when the need is great and banks are reluctant or unable to help. Small business remains one of the most powerful political lobbies in the nation; our solid performance will be rewarded with greater opportunity. Innovation is about building on core principles to improve the ability to achieve our mission of serving our members. We don’t need to change our name from being credit unions; change our charter to move closer to being banks; accept corporate income tax; or submit to unwieldy CRA regulation that may actually impede helping our communities. This doesn’t need to be a fight to redefine credit unions; it should be a collaboration to build on a solid base that has served us and our members well for the past 100 years.

Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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